Vote 4.2 Dennis Healy for River Forest Park District
Vote 4.2 Dennis Healy for River Forest Park District
Making the River Forest Park District accessible for all

Hi, I’m Dennis Healy and I’m running for the River Forest Park District Board. I am committed to: supporting our robust Park District programs, making sure the board continues to be fiscally responsible and looking at ways our parks and programs can be accessible to all.

 
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About Me

Lillia, Dennis, Melissa and Cora Healy

Lillia, Dennis, Melissa and Cora Healy

My family and I, wife Melissa and daughters Lillia (10) and Cora (5), have lived in River Forest for almost 5 years. We rented our first house here, right down the street from Washington Commons Park and knew within two weeks of moving in that we’d be lifelong residents. One of the first things we took advantage of were the park district programs. We did and do still feel lucky to have the programming and facilities available to us.

I’ve worked as a fundraiser for March of Dimes, as a compliance officer in the mortgage industry and as a stock analyst monitoring the energy sector. However, I am currently a stay at home dad - probably one of the harder jobs on my resume!


I think the purpose of the Park District is to unite the community through recreational and educational opportunities that benefit all members of the community and meet them where they are, with the abilities they have and with the means they have.


Walking in the Memorial Day Parade on behalf of the Township is always fun

Walking in the Memorial Day Parade on behalf of the Township is always fun

Why I’m Running for Park Board

I have been a member of the River Forest Township Mental Health Committee for 2 years and found that I enjoy serving this Village and its residents. I am a liaison to Opportunity Knocks and through that I realize how much more our park districts can do for other members of the village with differing needs. I also volunteered for Willard’s book fair for 4 years and like finding ways to be involved in activities my daughters also enjoy. It’s a way for me to be involved beyond just driving them from activity to activity!

One of our daughters has special needs which gives me a different perspective on how to use the Park District - especially when it comes to all things accessibility. I’d love to be able to see how I can make the parks and our programs even more accessible to those with different needs; whether that means adjusting times so working parents can participate to having even more collaboration with WSSRA. ‘Accessible’ means many things to many people and my main commitment is to explore that word as it pertains to the Park District.

Parenting a child with special needs changes your worldview in a way that is hard to communicate unless you’ve had that experience. It changes the way you experience everyday things people take for granted and shifts your priorities. When advocating for my daughter, I do so with the assumption that what I need for her to feel supported benefits more than just her. I will take that philosophy to my duties as a board member.


I would like to see the Park District continue to grow its programs while serving all residents of the village. Imagine if we added more programs for our special needs community and also continue to increase accessibility in our parks and facilities to residents with mobility and sensory issues.


My Vision

Enjoying Washington Commons Park

Enjoying Washington Commons Park

We are so fortunate to have a history of active and engaged Park Boards. When we first moved here we had a lot of questions when it came to understanding how the programs could support our daughter and we always felt supported as a family. I want to make sure all residents feel supported and like they belong.

I would love to develop some additional recreational options for River Forest residents – both adults and kids -  with special needs. The Park District has a great relationship with WSSRA and I would like to see how we could grow that relationship in order to provide opportunities for members of our community. It would be great if these programs could serve as a catalyst for bringing together residents of all needs at a larger scale. One program D90 schools utilize is the Best Buddy program which partners kids with special needs with neuro-typical kids. It would be interesting to explore if there are opportunities for the Park District to employ the same type of system in relation to Park District programs.

The Board has been incredibly diligent in it’s spending and I’d like to  continue that fiscal responsibility while making sure that when the Board oks a program, measure or spending it benefits more than just one special interest group.


Issues

Can the Park Board Communicate Better?

As a whole, residents are asking for more transparency and greater visibility from the various boards and town programss and I think the Park Board can and should do this too. It would be great to see a town-wide initiative towards accessibility – like live streamed meetings - that all boards and township meetings could benefit from. The Park District does a great job of communicating it’s programming. I think a simple solution is making sure we do the same for any meetings, decisions, or ordinances under our purview that affect residents.


What is your opinion on installing turf on the fields at Keystone?

After discussing the issue with many residents, both for and against turf, touring the field, attending meetings and reading all the reports I would vote ‘No’ on installing turf. I realize we are a land-locked community and thus need to find ways to utilize the open space we have more effectively. Theoretically, the installation of turf could provide more scheduling flexibility for the Park District, Youth Baseball and Soccer. Increasing our parks availability and usage is absolutely a benefit to many families and residents.

However, I share the concerns regarding injury, negative impacts on the environment and health, and true financial savings. I’m also not convinced that the turf installation is the silver bullet for flooding.

Ultimately, I think it’s the role of the Park District Board to serve the residents. If elected, I will make sure I’m making informed decisions that benefit a majority in our Village. In the end, I will always vote based on having credible information to make an informed vote for you.

The current Park Board created an updated Q&A that is a valuable resource for anyone wanting more information.


Will turf help with flooding? Do we have other options?

Unfortunately, the fields are located on a water retention site. So, while the turf would help with flooding it will not completely solve the issue of flooding. Fields would certainly be playable quicker with turf but there is still a chance that we would see standing water on the field after a heavy rain. I would imagine standing water on the turf would expediate the need to replace the turf sooner than the proposed 10 years, as the turf could wear down quicker. Flooding is a very real issue for RFYB and its programs and if elected I’d continue to work with RFYB to find a viable solution that works for both parties. At this time, I do not think that turf is that solution.

We do have limited outdoor and indoor space in River Forest and I believe that is a more important issue we need to solve for. I’d love to be able to look at the space we do have and see if there are more efficient or better ways we can use it. For instance, could we hire a third party to audit our outdoor spaces - fields, playgrounds, parks - and provide a plan that reconfigures them and works around the knowns like flooding, bird migration patterns, or future economic development. It would be great if this audit was a collaboration of the Park District, the Sustainability Commission and the Economic Development Commission all working together to improve the overall quality of space in our Village. Imagine the positive impact that would have.


How can we extend our facilities and offerings?

Suggestions have been made to provide Open Gym time in our schools. It could be problematic to provide unstructured or unscheduled access to things like our indoor gyms since we would not want to leave our school’s unlocked without any supervision on site. Safety for all residents and especially our students is critical. Of course I see the benefit of more rec opportunities with Open Gym. Therefore, I would be open to a program where residents paid a fee in order to staff the gyms to keep the school safe.

River Forest doesn’t have any outdoor basketball courts. Basketball is a great equalizer and doesn’t have a high barrier to entry - anyone can play and it’s easy to join a pick-up game. If there was enough interest from River Forest residents the Board should discuss where additional hoops could be added and determine if the added costs for hoops, maintenance and the possible cost to the village for additional insurance (if needed) would justify adding hoops. Perhaps we could get creative given our space issues and instead of looking at full courts we look at half courts instead. Unfortunately, we do have finite space and making sure everyone can enjoy that space is something I will continue to press for if elected.

And finally, I’d love to address a question that was asked at Buzz Cafe around the Santa Trolley not being inclusive for all denominations. It was a good question and we should consider inclusivity to also include other religions or beliefs. I have a few ideas: Make the ice rink a focal part of a “Winter Festival” that could include things like a snowman or snow castle making contest, s’more making, build your own hot chocolate or even food trucks, the Santa Trolley event contained a lot of different stations at The Depot and those stations could be expanded to include learning about other cultures or religions through activities. It could still offer free pictures with Santa as one of the stations and then Trolley ride could be focused more on the scavenger hunt aspect they had this year. In addition, there’s always opportunity to expand the Park District classes to expose kids and adults to other cultures - the extremely popular Bollywood dance class is a perfect example of this. There’s certainly room to improve and with resident input I think there is huge opportunity to meet this need.


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